Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hanging About in Norwich


I went to have my haircut yesterday by the young and lovely twenty-something Nina who shared the news that she’s pregnant. I don’t know why I didn’t notice – her tummy was almost eye-level as I sat in the salon chair. No wonder Doug says I miss 50% of what goes on around me. I guess I live too much in my own head. She’s only four months along, but there was a definite (and obvious) swelling. She seems proud and really happy about it.  When I was paying for my haircut, she stood by the till with a man I imagine to be the father. At least they were standing affectionately close to one another and I saw him discreetly touch the tips of her fingers. I guess I don’t miss everything.

It was a productive day. After I had my haircut, I met Nancy at The Forum, the modern glass library and cultural centre in Norwich, built to celebrate the millennium. We each ate a delicious grilled veggie sandwich and enjoyed a cup of coffee before heading off to the Apple Store. Nancy’s had some weird and frustrating little glitches with her Mac and booked an appointment for a consultation. After half an hour and a lot of fiddling, the bugs were sorted out and we headed off to have a peek around Chapel Fields – the very modern mall that outside is juxtaposed with 14th century headstones that appear to be sinking into the ground.

We jumped on the bus and headed back to the flat where I retired to my room to do some work and Nancy rolled up her sleeves and made us a delicious fish and rice dish that definitely falls under the comfort food category. We enjoyed it with a glass of French sauvignon blanc, and finished up with a sweet and juicy tangerine orange, which are in season somewhere and imported to the UK. Nancy has been here for just over a week, and this is the rhythm our days take. One or the other of us makes dinner and then we sit and chat until late. I’ve started jotting down the odd note to incorporate into my dissertation – little expressions and anecdotes that will enrich my text. She’s here in Norwich until February 15th, and I must say it’s wonderful to have her around (it is her flat after all).  I realize I become a wee bit of a hermit crab when I’m here by myself.

Today, Sunday, I went to Morrison’s, the local supermarket, where the nearly normal Norfolk folk were out in full force. I needed only to pick up some bread, but the isles were crammed with baskets and babies and Sunday shoppers with nothing better to do. One couple with gaping mouths was spending an inordinate amount of time standing in front of the shelves of laundry detergent, wondering which brand to buy. Too much choice! Another younger couple was wandering around like they’d been hit in the head, he wearing his knitted woolen hat with long felt ears hanging down. But they’re nice enough. It may sound to my Canadian liberal friends like I’m being anti-Norfolk, when nothing could be further from the truth. They make fun of themselves! When I was coming back from London on the train after my time in Morocco, at the platform I asked one group of young men, who were already on board, if this was the train for Norwich (just checking), and they said (in a strong Norfolk accent), “Yeah, they’re all inbred there, don’t ya know.” So it’s not just me. I wish I could imitate the accent, but try as I may, it eludes me. The closest I can come is to parrot, “Y’all right then, luv.” They don’t care if you’re all right though – it’s just something they say. In China, the equivalent is, “Have you eaten today,” while we in Canada just say, “How are you,” and we don’t mean that either. We really don’t care.

I don’t know where the last two weeks have gone, but I do know what I’ve been doing. The Business and Report Writing course is underway and I’ve been helping with that and other work for the Writing Centre, which is always interesting, and for which I’m grateful to have. And with Nancy here from Morocco, we’ve been busy designing a brochure for Dar Sidi Bounou and sorting out her growing client list. For my UEA program stuff, I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being, the only truly autobiographical material she wrote, and the Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, the autobiography of Mary Seacole, the intrepid Jamaican woman who travelled to the Crimean War to see if she could help with the war effort. Quite a story, written in a lighter vein (despite the subject matter) than Woolf’s, whose life was interesting but tragic.  I think I need to go back and read David Niven’s The Moon is a Balloon to get a bit of comic relief from reading about difficult lives. I remember thinking it was hilariously funny when I read it back in the 70s.

Today is cold and cloudy, and I’m yearning for warmer spring-like weather so I can ride my bike and sit outside the cafés and read. Norwich is full of wonderful little places for doing just that. For those who haven’t yet read the article about Norwich in the New York Times it’s well worth a look and may even tempt some of you over here. The article also has some great photos, and given I am again not attaching any of my own here, will serve to entertain.


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